MOUSSA Dembele has never been one to hide his light under a bushel.

On his first day at Celtic after all, he proclaimed that not only was he in Scotland to repeat the feats of a certain Henrik Larsson, but he was going to go on to be the best striker in the world.

There has never been any doubt about his potential, but his manager Brendan Rodgers believes that the young Frenchman is ready to back up his fighting talk by being a knockout on the field.

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That’s not to say that Dembele hasn’t already showcased his talents in green and white, bagging 32 goals in his debut season and then 16 in an injury-hit campaign last time out. But Rodgers senses a difference in the 21-year-old since he reported back for pre-season, both on the inside and out.

He looked lean and mean as he sparkled on his first run-out of the season on Tuesday against Sparta Prague, a 45-minute cameo that exemplified everything that has clubs across the continent casting eyes in his direction. 

Dembele’s finishing was a little rusty, sure, but he still bagged the only goal of the game and showed incredible strength, pace and power as he threw centre-halves around like wet paper towels.

Rodgers knows, and has told Dembele, that if he continues to shine in such a manner it will be hard to contain him in Scotland much longer, but he is certain that both parties will benefit from him performing at his peak in a Celtic jersey for now. 

Having talked the talk, the Northern Irishman thinks that Dembele can now walk the walk as a top European striker. 

“Moussa had lost weight when he came back and looked really fit and strong,” Rodgers said.

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“What I know with Moussa is that nothing affects him, really. I think there was a little period in my time, but, apart from that, he’s been absolutely brilliant. Moussa is really focused and he’s a good boy.

“He knows it will come for him at some point and that there is nothing he can do other than work hard in training and play well in games. He’s done that for the majority of time I’ve been at the club.

“He can only play well, work hard and see what happens.

“Moussa is a really happy boy and he’s a great boy to work with. I love him.  

“He has a belief that he is a player and that is important because you need to have that personality.

“But it is handy when you back it up. That’s what I look for.

“Moussa backs it up and shows it on the field.”

The arrival of Odsonne Edouard in a permanent £9m transfer may have been interpreted from the outside as a signal that Dembele was on his way out of Celtic Park this summer, but Rodgers is looking at ways of accommodating both young talents in his line-up.

He played them as a pair in a 3-5-2 formation in the last friendly of their pre-season trip to Austria against Sparta Prague, and the potential for an exciting partnership was plain for all to see.

What that means for Leigh Griffiths though, who played in an earlier game with younger members of the squad against BW Linz, remains to be seen.

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“What I try to have is real competition in that attacking area,” said Rodgers. 

“Over a couple of years, Moussa and Leigh were injured for periods and at times we didn’t have that extra one.

“But I didn’t want to just bring in anyone, so to bring in Odsonne with his quality and potential was important.

“All three strikers are fighting, and we are going to need all three to play the number of games we are, hopefully, going to play.

“My style will always be the same, but my systems can change. The style will always be the same. The rules are simple in that we have to attack with aggression and intensity and we have to dominate.

“When we do that, we can create chances. 

“I like them to be flexible tactically and obviously having an option to that is very good.

“It worked well for us against Sparta.”

Rodgers was meanwhile pleased to hear the news that he has two players in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, even though Sweden’s Mikael Lustig is suspended for their match against England on Saturday, and Dedryck Boyata was dropped from Belgium’s side that saw off Japan in a thriller on Monday night.

“I’m delighted for Dedryck,” he said. “He’s had a great run in the team there before coming out for Vincent Kompany, but he’s still very much a part of their squad. It’s brilliant, the quarter finals on Friday for him.

“We just heard the Sweden result there after the game, so for Mika it’s absolutely brilliant.

“It’s fantastic for them. I’ve obviously been in contact with them throughout the tournament through text and what have you.

“It’s great for them, I’m delighted for them both.”